Onboarding in the time of Covid-19

Jes Martell, of Penn State, discusses onboarding for her new records management position during the time of Covid-19:

There is no better feeling than nailing an interview and getting offered the position you were hoping for. Starting a new job is an exciting opportunity to explore your potential within a business, company, or institution, and yet the first few weeks in your new position often present a new set of challenges that you may not have necessarily planned to encounter. What will a day in this new job look like? How will I build relationships with my peers and co-workers? And, of course, what will the onboarding process and job training be like? When I accepted my job offer for the position of Records Center Specialist at the Pennsylvania State University in March of 2020, I had all of these same feelings and thoughts running through my head. Unbeknownst to me, I would face the obstacle of onboarding during a pandemic that was just around the corner. In this post, I will be sharing my experience stepping into my new role in Records Management during the time of COVID-19.  

Just after, I accepted my job offer, the governor announced a state-wide closure of all non-essential businesses. At this time, I wasn’t sure how this might affect my job offer at the University. The hiring manager was fully honest with me about the situation. Penn State University would be experiencing a hiring freeze and we were unsure what this would mean for my onboarding. While this possibility was scary to consider, I appreciated the transparency. Luckily, I made the cut-off and was able to be onboarded into the Office of Records Management team.  

The Records Center, which normally operates at full-time hours during the week, would be required to cut back operations to three days a week. On my first day at work, we began by establishing Records Center operations during COVID and implementing safety plans to help mitigate the spread of the virus. This included use of separate offices, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, enhanced cleaning, maintaining physical distancing at all times of at least 6 feet or more, and video conferencing for all meetings. As a new employee, it was reassuring to know that my team would be taking all precautions to keep us safe during these uncertain times. As a large majority of my position requires physical labor, I was also able to observe and be trained on the physical aspects of my job, such as records destruction and operation of machinery, during my first week of work. 

The two days of the week that I wasn’t working on-site, I was assigned a laptop and webcam to work remotely. I never worked from home before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Being so new, I hoped that I would still be able to be productive and contribute to projects as part of the team. Working remotely those two days allowed me the time to complete the necessary University onboarding requirements such as HR remote document verification, selection of benefits, on-line lift training, and IT tech orientation. While working at home, I was also able to assist my team with a shared drive migration project. Each member of our team was assigned folders within the shared drive to review, after confirming that all records inside of those folders were still necessary to keep, I was responsible for moving the records from our previous file-sharing application, Box, to Microsoft SharePoint. We also used this time to review our Records Center website. I reviewed each page on our website and made notes about any suggestions that I had and we shared our edits as a team during our daily meetings. By the end of the first week, I was feeling much more confident in my ability to learn both on-site duties and be an active team member remotely. On Friday, April 3rd, we received notice that the Records Center would be shut down completely until further notice in response to COVID and would operate on an on-call request basis only.  

For the following 10 weeks, we made a few brief appearances at the Records Center once or twice weekly to provide access to records for life-sustaining services, such as Human Resources, University Health Services, and Penn State Law. I used those on-site opportunities to do as much hands-on work as possible in hopes that when we did return full-time, I would feel confident in my ability to successfully operate the Records Center. I felt optimistic that I would be able to learn the physical duties required of my position; the biggest mystery for me was learning Records Management. I did not have much of a background working in the field prior to this role, so I knew there would be a lot for me to learn.  

One of the most valuable tools that my team has been using during the remote work period is Microsoft Teams. We use the application for all meetings, including our daily morning meetings which give us the opportunity to touch base on projects, talk about current events, and get to know one another, as I had only met a few of my team members in-person once at this point. We also used Microsoft Teams to provide Records Management training for me on topics such as audits, litigation holds, University policies, records retention schedules and many others. My team invited me to consultation meetings with different departments at the University so that I could observe the retention schedule creation process for a variety of records. I was also included in meetings with departments we work closely with, such as Human Resources, Archives, and General Counsel, to introduce myself and ask any questions I had. In a way, I feel that the pandemic afforded me additional undivided attention for training sessions and opportunities to ask questions that perhaps I may not have had otherwise during what would typically be very busy weeks had we been working on-site. I felt surprisingly positive about how well I was able to learn remotely.  

By the beginning of June, our Team was feeling ready to return to on-site operations, so we submitted the required “PSU Return-To-Work” proposal for consideration and on June 10th, we were approved for a partial return-to-work schedule of 3 days per week for 6 hours per day. Although I was somewhat anxious returning on-site with the virus still very much present in Pennsylvania, I knew that my team was taking all precautions to keep me safe and it was always made very clear to me that if at any time I did not feel comfortable working on site, there would be no hesitation in accommodating my concerns. As a new employee, this was extremely comforting to me and it meant a lot knowing that the focus was not on productivity at this time, but instead on our health and safety as individuals.  

As of August 24th, the Records Center is open again and I have returned to work full-time alongside the Records Center Manager. With her guidance, I have become fully competent in my physical duties working on-site and, thanks to my entire team, I feel confident and knowledgeable in the space of Records Management. Stepping into a new job position in a remote environment presented me with many challenges but also a lot of opportunities for individualized training. In my opinion, the most valuable resource that I had while onboarding was my team. If you have a patient, supportive team dedicated to helping you grow and succeed then you too can survive onboarding, even in a pandemic! 

Archives Records 2020 RMS Virtual Annual Meeting

Last week, over 130 people came together via Zoom for the annual meeting of the SAA Records Management Section.  We first had a visit from Cal Lee, editor of The American Archivist, who made a plug for submissions of records management related articles.  You can find submission guidelines here.

As the current chair of the section, I presented a brief business report of the steering committee’s activities for 2019-2020.

  • We posted monthly steering committee meeting summaries to the listserv and our microsite.  (If you wish to join our listserv community, you can create an account here.)
  • We revamped our microsite and added an RM toolkit with links to various best practices.
  • We had 41 blog posts, including a continuation of the Resourceful Records Manager series and the introduction of two new series exploring the intersections between archives and records management work — one a series of testimonials from practitioners and the other a series of brief literature reviews exploring these intersections.
  • We also posted an interview with a scholarly communications expert about the ramifications of GDPR in the U.S.
  • We updated resources in our Zotero bibliography.
  • We hosted three virtual coffee chats during COVID times.
  • We produced calculators for the costs of storing paper and electronic records.
  • We collaborated with SNAP for a Twitter chat.
  • We submitted a draft proposal to the SAA Committee on Education for an RIM certificate program.

I also reported our election results, with nearly 200 section members participating:

  • Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University, will be stepping into the role of Vice-Chair for the coming year, to be followed by a year as Chair, and then a year as Immediate Past Chair.
  • We have a new steering committee member who will serve a 3-year term — Ryan Leimkuehler, who is University Records Manager at Kansas State University.
  • We are welcoming two early career members, who will serve 1-year terms:
    • Madison Chartier is a Metadata Librarian at Oklahoma State University
    • Jes Martell is a Records Center Specialist at Pennsylvania State University

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information here on our blog about our new committee members.

After reading an SAA Council update prepared by our liaison, we launched into our lightning round presentations centered around carrying out records management responsibilities in academic settings.

  • Jessika Drmacich, Records Manager and Digital Resources Archivist at Williams College, talked about “The Records Manager in the Library.”
  • Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University, spoke about “Getting a Seat at the Table.”
  • Eric Stoykovich, College Archivist and and Manuscript Librarian at Trinity College, talked about “Remote Records Management.”
  • Greg Wiedeman, University Archivist at the University of Albany, talked about “Why our records program is bad, and how I’m okay with that.”
  • Elizabeth Carron, currently Accessioning Archivist at Boston College, reflected on selecting RM projects and partnering with GLAM institutions while she worked at the University of Michigan.
  • Hillary Gatlin, Records Manager at Duke University, talked about “Developing Proactive Outreach.”

We intended to have breakout sessions that would focus on some of the issues that were raised by our query on our recent ballot, but technology interfered with that plan.  So instead, we had more generalized discussions and will plan in the coming weeks to organize times that we can have virtual meetings about those topics like developing RM programs, e-records management, and RIM education.

You can access the slide deck from this meeting here, and a recording will be made available by SAA.  And remember, if you have a topic or a work product that you’d like for us to consider adding to our developing agenda, please contact any steering committee member or send us an email at saarecordsmanagement@gmail.com.  You can also post to our discussion list through SAA Connect, and if you’d like to write a post for our blog, once again, please reach out to the steering committee.

Update: The recording of this meeting is now available at https://www.pathlms.com/saa/events/1994/event_sections/11946/video_presentations/172335.

RMS Section Meeting Teaser #6

Our sixth and final panelist teaser is from Jessika Drmacich of Williams College.

*The RMS panel is set for this coming Monday, July 27th at 3pm ET.

Synopsis of her lightning round presentation:

The records management program at Williams College began formally in 2012 and has since evolved into a robust ecosystem across campus. In her presentation, Jessika will provide a short overview of the program, the role itself, and discuss how good records management contributes to institutional efforts to diversify and enrich documentation of its histories. She’ll also explore the creativity required to navigate and document power dynamics.

2020 RMS annual meeting

SAA is going virtual this year, and the annual meeting for our Records Management Section will take place Monday, July 27th from 2-3:15pm Central Time.  This is a free event, but you need to register in advance in order to receive the instructions for joining our Zoom session.  This meeting will be recorded and made available at a later date, but we highly encourage you to join us live so you can interact with your fellow practitioners.  You’ll notice when you register that we’re also asking you to choose the breakout session you wish to attend during our meeting; although you’ll be able to hear the summaries of these sessions on the recording, participating in the live event will provide you the opportunity to share your ideas and shape the priorities of the RMS section for the upcoming year.

In addition to our brief business meeting, we’ll have six panelists present lightning talks and respond to your questions about doing records management work within academic libraries.  You can find out more about the topics of our lightning panel here on our blog.  Then we’ll conclude our meeting by hosting breakout sessions to focus in on a particular aspect of records management work, including:

  • RIM education
  • E-records and archiving email
  • Outreach
  • Developing RM programs
  • RM toolkit
  • GDPR

We hope to “see” you at our meeting next week.

RMS Section Meeting Teaser #5

Our next teaser is from panelist Eric Stoykovich of Trinity College!

Reminder: our section meeting is free and it is set for Monday, July 27th at 3pm ET.

Are Records Essential to Governance of Higher Education during a Crisis?

Colleges and universities often face existential threats or once-in-a-lifetime crises which require quick or possibly unilateral actions on the part of administrators. At such times of exigency, consultation or consent of faculty, staff, alumni, or parents may be difficult or impossible. Administrators may also wish to innovate in ways which reflect well on the independent traditions of their schools, when the more prudent response may be collaborative or imitative.

During such crises, the continued management and access to college and university records ought to be viewed as a stabilizing force, reaffirming the variety of roles which administrators and faculty have played in the past during previous upheavals on campus. For example, at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), many professors taught outside their fields of training during World War II, when 1/3 of the faculty had left for war work.

In 2020, maintaining present college records is challenged on two fronts. Not only are records creators and archives’ staff restricted from access to physical records, but most staff and faculty working remotely and often creating and storing “institutional records” on dispersed servers, such as personal computers, and in new electronic formats, including Zoom meetings. The college or university staff responsible for records and archives management will need to confront both of these challenges now and in the coming months. Communicating the value of transferring all college-related work products, especially those normally maintained as part of a records retention schedule, to institutionally-maintained servers or cloud storage on a regular basis could be an important first step in this process of making the best of the situation of near universal remote work in higher education settings.

RMS Annual Meeting Teaser #4

Our next exciting panelist for our upcoming meeting is Gregory Weideman of University of Albany, SUNY.


Working with “Decentralized” Records Management

This talk will describe an experience working at a public university with “decentralized” records management. In this environment, archivists cannot sit back and wait for transfers, but must actively reach out to creators and demonstrate their valve to campus offices – who often fear losing control over even inactive records. In this case, records laws may actually work to disincentivize transfers, and a lack of support for records management overall may mean that the archivist and the university will have to learn to live with incomplete documentation.


RMS annual meeting teaser #3!

Our next teaser features our panelist Hillary Gatlin, Records Manager at Duke University!

Developing Proactive Outreach:

Duke University is restarting its records management program after years of dormancy. This lightning talk will discuss how the University Archives is working to develop and implement proactive outreach in order to expand the records management program and increase collecting opportunities. In 2019, Duke University Archives completed a survey of current collections to identify records gaps and implemented outreach strategies to proactively fill those gaps. Some of the challenges faced include expanding outreach beyond the library environment, developing a proactive strategy that was still responsive to unexpected requests, and managing contacts within an ever-shifting organization. Despite these challenges, the records management program is making significant strides in achieving a more proactive outreach and collecting strategy.

RMS annual meeting teaser #2

Another panelist who will be presenting during our annual meeting is Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University.  She will speak on “The Struggle is Real: Getting a Seat at the Table.”

The unending pursuit of getting the proverbial “seat at the table” and having a voice when it comes to records management decisions and concerns is a constant struggle for records managers. This struggle is compounded when records management authority is perceived to be buried in an institution’s organizational structure. In my experience working at higher education institutions as an archivist with records management responsibilities, I have found that we are often ignored or forgotten when it comes to decision making, especially in regard to electronic records. Additionally many of those making decisions do not fully understand the authority, value, and expertise archivists/records managers possess. At Clemson, the Records Management Team is currently changing that perception and has successfully secured a “seat at the table” by demonstrating our proficiency in understanding Clemson’s information environment. “How?” you ask. Through collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships. For the past six month the Records Management Team has worked closely with the Chief Data Officer, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Office of the VP for Finance and Operations, Enterprise Risk Management,  and Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT) to address issues related to IT vendor management and customer IT needs as part of the larger University IT governance framework. Our goal is for stakeholders to understand all/most/some of the risks, costs, and benefits of the data associated with the proposed solution before approval (the point of no return). Clemson has been practicing this activity in a piecemeal fashion via various mechanisms, but we are now attempting to do this more intentionally. Playing a central role in this initiative, the Records Management Team has been able to deliver real solutions to address the ever changing information environment of the University.  My presentation will focus on sharing my experience getting to “the table” and the strategies I adopted to build relationships and deliver results that demonstrated why I needed to be “at the table.”

Archivists and Records Managers, part 13

In the September/October 2018 issue of Information Management, William LeFevre wrote a piece entitled “Leveraging Legacy Historical Records to Create Organizational Value.”  He explained that the “data explosion” has blurred the lines between active and inactive records that typically divided records managers from archivists.  He encouraged information management professionals to consider additional uses of records beyond their typical administrative, fiscal, and legal uses, including:

  • marketing and communications
  • employee training and education
  • strengthening corporate identity
  • documenting mission and history
  • data mining

He pointed to success stories from Coca-Cola and Ford to justify the retention of historical corporate records and suggested it may be appropriate to engage external appraisers (i.e., archivists) in identifying records.  He concluded,

“Telling stories through corporate records can enhance efforts to brand or rebrand, advance the organization’s mission, boost employee loyalty programs, enhance training efforts, and improve community outreach efforts, all of which will bolster the organization’s internal and external brand.”

RMS Section Meeting: teasers!

As the Annual SAA virtual meeting and the Records Management Section virtual meeting approaches, we want to bring your attention to the fabulous panel we planned:

The Records Manager in the Library (panelists: Jessika Drmacich, Williams College; Krista Oldham, Clemson University; Eric Stoykovich, Trinity College-Hartford; Greg Wiedeman, University at Albany, SUNY; Elizabeth Carron, Boston College; Hillary Gatlin, Duke University)

In the weeks up until the gathering we will share weekly panel teasers! Our first highlights Elizabeth Carron of Boston College!

Please join us in August!

Tentative title: Records Management for Cultural Heritage Organizations

Cultural heritage organizations like libraries, archives, and museums create, use, manage, and share records every day in the course of daily operations. Records underscore every function within these organizations including acquisitions, building management, conservation, curation, human resources, marketing, and outreach. Records and data related to these functions are important corporate assets. They protect the organization’s legal rights and its ownership of property, ensure compliance with organizational and professional regulations, and provide the means for keeping its constituency informed of its activities, operations, and accomplishments. In this case study, the author explores the university archivist’s role in identifying opportunities for collaboration with academic campus museums; in the identification and management of records with permanent value to the museum and/or archival value; and in policymaking.